Friday, April 18, 2014

Wyrd Worlds & The Road to the War(s)

One of the blessings of self-publishing is the ability to write and publish whatever you want. I don’t have a publisher to tell me No. I can explore genres at my whim; let the muse off its leash and let run where it will. Therefore, in the file where I collect writing ideas (cleverly titled “Writing Ideas”), there are the spores of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories among the standard literary fare. I’ll even admit that some following year you may find a Star Trek-TNG fan-fic novel - seriously.

But my science fiction story “Separate Wars on the Same Street” isn’t strictly a new story, flaunting my freedom from editorial pressure. In fact, in many ways, it was my first story.

I was a good student in high school. Though I never took any honors or AP classes, I was accepted to every college I applied to. (Honors and AP classes certainly would never have let me finish that last sentence with a preposition). So my non-honored high school self had the opportunity to take Creative Writing as my Senior English Class, where the class’s final project was publishing a class literary journal. Of the two finished short stories I wrote for that class, “Separate Wars on the Same Street” was far and away the strongest, and in a box somewhere in my garage is a copy that holds the original version of the story. When the Smashwords Authors Group I belong to on Goodreads got the idea to collaborate on an anthology I took the story out, stripped it to its bones, and built it back up to breathing to submit.

Since the story relies heavily on irony, especially situational, it’s hard to talk  about it without revealing spoilers. But I think I can safely give some background on the story of the kind I like to learn about the stories I enjoy reading.
My junior and senior years of high school were years of great transition, of course. One of the experiences that greatly affected me was the death of my friend Tommy. Tommy liked loud music, and had big headphones to accommodate this; I think this was why he didn’t hear the train coming as he was walking the tracks on the way to his job at Taco Bell. I was near to the accident without knowing it: the tracks flank the gym where I was having basketball practice, and though some of my teammates say they saw it happen, it didn’t become real for me until I got home. As soon as I got in the house there was my mother asking if the boy they were talking about on the news was my friend, and telling her Yes was the most awful thing I had had to do at that point in my life.
I had to wait for the national news to end before seeing the story on the local news, and besides the reporter standing besides the tracks, there was intercut footage from the news helicopter, footage of men carrying the yellow body bag that held my friend away.
“Now why do they have to show that?!” my Mom yelled, the tears starting up again. This question, and the long process of considering it during and past the process of my grieving changed the way I viewed the news. I had trusted the news to show me what I needed to see as a citizen, and so had always watched with both eyes, directly; the footage of aftermath, serving no purpose besides being lurid, reached out and pushed my head away, so that I have never been able to view the news again with the trust of both eyes, but always afterward at a wary angle. It was this viewpoint that combined with an affinity for mech-suits (Sigourney Weaver in Aliens; Robotech) the next year for the finished story; and was still present when I rewrote it over the summer of 2013.

Read my story, “Separate Wars on the Same Street,” as well as thirteen other excellent, interesting works from an international team of indie & self-published authors. All the links you need are over there on my side bar. The price is right (it's free), and if you read something there you like, help us out with a review saying so.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Quarterly Report

Despite all of the crazyness that goes with having three kids in middle and elementary school, three jobs (substitute teacher, sales associate, candy & dessert maker / partner), and the beginning of little league baseball & softball season with all three kids now playing, it was a productive quarter for my creative pursuits. And how? Well, through a mix of luck, discipline, and circumstance.
The luck comes from getting substitute teaching jobs where students are manageable, and the work assigned is mostly independent. Elementary school days are the least productive, with only lunch, and maybe a music or PE prep time to work. Middle school jobs theoretically give you more time, but require so much classroom management that there is never more than a handful of minutes to focus on reading or writing. High school jobs, unless they are PE or Special Day Classes are ideal.
And here Circumstance comes in, as I am fortunate to have been picked at one of my local high schools to be their permanent sub: meaning I go there everyday to fill in as needed, either on a class-by-class basis to give teachers an extra prep, or to jump in if a teacher has to leave early, or to fill in for a teacher that called in their absence last minute and couldn’t get a sub. The majority of classes at this particular high school are well behaved, and able to work independently, leaving me plenty of time to work at the writing game.
The discipline is still developing, but one of the things I have been working on to foster this is cutting out casual video games. Now, I love video games on the console and computer, and I find that many games offer intelligent storytelling and interactive experiences that I don’t consider time wasted. I’ve cut these out mostly because there is little free time at home to engage in these games. What I’ve discarded is the Candy Crush/Angry Bird/etc. type timewasters. Now whenever I have the urge to take a break I turn to ebooks on my phone, and am better at bringing a book for little league practices or work breaks.

So, with three months of 2014 already gone, here is a pause to evaluate my writing life so far this year:
I have read 10 books: 4 on audio, 1 ebook, and 5 ink-on-paper. They include some Mark Twain classics, some excellent indies, and some world-class genre novels.
So far I have failed at my goal about submitting short stories, having not put any out for consideration.

I’ve been a bit better about socializing online, but not as much as I should have been, so I’m going to call that a ¾ fail.

My novel writing is where I’ve seen the most productivity. I have added 16808 words to my literary zombie novel The Two Loves of Ugly Doug, 19792 words to my seriocomic novel about education and writing Diary of a Sadman, and 50 words to my satiric novel on sex and higher education The Great North-Southern Cock-Block, for a grand total of 36650 unedited words, for a daily average of 407.22 words. I had given myself a 250 words a day average goal, so ‘Way to go Me!’

For Quarter 2 my goals are to simply:
- keep up the reading pace.
- get those short stories out there already!
- keep getting words on paper (physical, or electronic approximations). I have raised my daily writing average goal to 350, because this is more accurate average number of words I put down in ink on one page of 8-1/4” x 11” college-ruled paper.

Good luck to you, good luck to me!